Case Studies

Case Studies

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Facing the facts when a formal disciplinary process is unnecessary.

Published 02 February 2022

It’s in an employee’s best interests to deal with any disciplinary allegation before it escalates, which Crystal discovered.

Crystal, a software development manager, was shocked when first informed her team thought she was unhelpful, rude and unapproachable.

Crystal was informed a disciplinary investigation would take place to look into the concerns.

The claims were said to call into question her role leading the team, which was having a negative impact on staff morale.

Worried Crystal was told all of the details would be provided at an investigation meeting, also known as a fact-finding meeting.

Crystal was invited to an investigation meeting to face allegations of poor management of her team and creating a toxic working environment.

Employees do not have a statutory right to be accompanied at an investigation meeting, but it is good practice for employers to allow it.

Based on the outcome of an investigation meeting an employer can either decide to invite an employee to a disciplinary hearing, take informal action or take no further action.

Crystal’s employer permitted staff to be accompanied at an investigation/fact-finding meeting.

Just over a year earlier Crystal had been supported by one of our representatives when she made a flexible working request, which was originally rejected before being granted.

So, Crystal was fully aware if she contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre she would get the help she desperately needed.

Crystal explained to our representative she had a difficult team to manage. Workplace changes Crystal had to enforce after lockdown had proved unpopular with the team, which showed a resistance to change.

Crystal had felt unsupported by her managers in dealing with her team. She had repeatedly asked for help, which was not provided.

Unlike a disciplinary hearing an employer does not have to provide all of the evidence in advance of an investigation meeting.

But our representative contacted Crystal’s employer to make a reasonable request for more details about the allegations in order so that she could fully prepare for the meeting.

There was an exchange of email correspondence with the employer in which our representative pushed for further details.  That information was eventually provided.

The evidence of the concerns raised lacked specific details e.g. ‘Crystal has always been unhelpful’, but no details or examples were provided to support the claim, and ‘whenever you go to her with a problem she ignores you’, but no specific instances were cited.

Crystal did inform our representative she was shocked by the claims, as all of her performance feedback had been positive.

Prior to the investigation meeting our representative also requested performance feedback from the employer, which was provided.

At the investigation meeting our representative was able to make representations on behalf of Crystal.

In doing so he highlighted her positive performance feedback including that from the team, which was provided just over two months earlier.

He told the investigating manager as it was the first time Crystal had been made aware of the concerns, she should be given a reasonable opportunity to work with her team to resolve them. Crystal’s willingness to do so was made clear.

Our representative presented evidence provided by Crystal of her pleas in emails for help managing the team, and he highlighted and raised concerns about a lack of sufficient details to support the concerns highlighted.

These points and more were used to argue that it would be suitable to attempt and informal approach in the first instance, as described by the ACAS Code of Practice. It was also made clear Crystal was prepared to take part in mediation with the team.

Our representative strongly asserted that in the circumstances an informal approach was reasonable and logical.

Crystal was asked a number of questions about the concerns raised and dynamics of the team.

Later that afternoon Crystal was informed of her employer’s plan to address the matters informally and given the details of how it was going to do so. It was a huge relief for her.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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